My wife and I were discussing the children last night and their activities. Among that discussion was music lessons. One of the things we told our children is that they will learn to play a musical instrument starting no later than their 12th birthday. We’re not expecting any of them to become a virtuoso, but we do want them to experience what it’s like, to learn how to read music, and gain some appreciation for what musicians go through. My wife and I both grew up playing flute, and we know that it has been beneficial for us. We wanted to pass on those benefits to our children.
Our oldest two boys have taken up instruments. The oldest plays guitar. His younger brother, the iconoclast, chose the ocarina. My oldest loves playing. He willingly practices every day, usually multiple sessions every day. He’s fully embracing some of the lessons from Talent Is Overrated. My younger son, however, doesn’t enjoy structured playing all that much. Both boys have instructors. We told them that if they picked an instrument we were familiar with (flute and french horn for both of us, and trumpet as well for me) we could tutor them or we could find an instructor, if they preferred that. If they picked an instrument we weren’t familiar with, we’d have to find a tutor. We did happen to find an ocarina tutor, but unlike in Taiwan, there’s a limited amount that he can do without building a curriculum from scratch. As a result, my younger son’s tutor also introduced him to the recorder.
My younger son has done his part for 18 months. He has learned an instrument (actually, two), can read music, and has demonstrated a willingness to practice a piece until he can play it to the expected level. He has performed on both recorder and ocarina at a recital and did a fine job. He has shown the ability to play as a soloist and with accompaniment. He has done everything we’ve asked and expected. As a result, last night my wife and I decided to give him the option of stopping music lessons. It’s not something he’s passionate about. We’ve accomplished the objectives set forth with asking him to learn an instrument. Now it’s a question of whether or not it’s something he wants to continue to do.
In other words, from a parenting perspective, we decided it was time to quit. He won’t be graded on it for school this year (we homeschool) and we won’t insist he practice and continue to attend lessons. Now it’s his turn to determine whether or not to quit. I know that since he’s had the time to learn the ocarina and has gotten some skill with it, he will always play it from time-to-time. I’m like that with flute. However, I don’t want him taking lessons anymore if he doesn’t want to. I’d rather he pour the time and energy into something he’s passionate about.
In life, especially as we pursue our goals, we have to know when to quit. Maybe something is a worthwhile goal, but there is a bigger goal it’s taking us away from. If that’s the situation, and we have to choose, it’s likely time to quit the former and pursue the latter with the resources we get back. We don’t want to quit too early. We want to reap the benefits of pursuing a goal or endeavor. However, we can’t make decisions based solely on what we’ve already spent. That time, that energy, those resources, are already sunk cost. They are in the past. If the goal isn’t worth pursuing anymore or if the endeavor isn’t worth what we’re continuing to put into it, then it’s time to quit. Too often I’ve seen people continue down a particular road because of the miles they’ve already traveled. Whether or not they realize it, they’ve let the past imprison them in the present with further incarceration ordered for the future.
Every so often take time to assess where you are and what you’re doing. Look at each goal, each area of interest and effort, and each endeavor carefully. Judge your involvement and where you want to go and be in the future. If something doesn’t fit anymore, don’t be afraid to call it quits. Realize the impact, don’t do it too easily, but have the courage to make the change. And then pour the freed up resources into other areas of your life.